Budget Travel In New Zealand
Unless you are fairly well off, or just on annual leave from your well paid job, then budgeting will probably be on the forefront of your mind. However, if you are like us, and either chronically broke, or currently engaging in long term travel, then this post is for you. Budget travel in New Zealand is not as straight forward as it is in other countries. But when armed with a little knowledge, and a few tricks, then it is possible to really stretch the budget in New Zealand. So without further adieu – here is my guide for budget travel in New Zealand.
There are several bus companies in New Zealand where you can buy travel passes (Stray, Kiwiexperience) and there are also bus companies where you can buy point to point tickets as well (Intercity, Naked bus). James and I nipped this money sucker in the bud, and pretty much hitchhiked everywhere we went. I even wrote this companion guide – A Hitchhiker’s Guide to New Zealand. However, if you have a drivers license and really want to travel independently, then consider either buying or renting a camper van. There is a car market in Auckland every Sunday, where backpackers and locals alike meet up to buy and sell vehicles – often at very competitive prices.
However, on our second stint backpacking around New Zealand, we were going to be travelling to places a little more off the beaten track. Some of these places were not serviced by public transportation. Some of these places were on such quiet roads that we did not want to risk hitch hiking. Also, it was October and a little colder at nights on the South Island, so we didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere camping. And lastly, we were a bit strapped for time as the end of my working holiday visa was approaching. For these reasons, we took our second trip around New Zealand with the Stray bus company. We even wrote a review of their services here.
If you have your own camper van, then you don’t need to give much thought to this section. But if you do not, then you may be considering staying in a hostel. New Zealand hostels are much pricier than some places in Europe, but are still quite reasonable when compared to Australia. If you are going to be spending a lot of nights in hostels, then you may want to consider a BBH card which gives you a small discount at most hostels. James and I never bothered with this card, since we didn’t often stayed in hostels. For those of you who are really serious about budget travel in New Zealand, then note this – freedom camping is legal in most places in New Zealand. James and I, and our trusty orange tent, travelled together and saved money together all over the country. If camping is not your style, but you are open to meeting new people and saving money at the same time, then consider joining couchsurfing and staying at someones place.
*** Note! Freedom camping has recently been made illegal in New Zealand. Make sure you are at a designated camp site before you camp! ***
*** Note! Further update regarding freedom camping from your friends at YHA hostels:
“Just a note from the bottom of the world. Freedom Camping isn’t completely illegal in New Zealand. There are definite rules around where you can and cannot camp, but if you follow these rules (to help keep NZ clean and beautiful and free of human waste and litter) you can find spots that are okay to camp. This website will give you a bit of a heads up over the new legislation:
And there’s also a great app out there for campers in NZ. This app gives directs you to where you can camp, find toilets, rubbish bins, campsites and hostels, etc.
Activities and Experiences
Of course there is more to travel then sleeping and driving. You need to keep yourself busy, get yourself into exciting situations, and take lots of pictures to make everyone at home jealous. So how do you combine black water rafting, sky diving, and scuba diving with budget travel in New Zealand? Well, it can be easy – with a little luck and good timing. New Zealand hosts several online voucher companies which feature a heavily discounted deal which changes daily. Almost every region of New Zealand is represented and the vouches are valid for several months, so make sure to check back each day. James and I got to go black water rafting for 75% off, half price scuba diving and paddle boarding, and we even almost bought half priced sky diving. So make sure you check out Grabone, and Dailydo.
Eating out can be expensive in New Zealand, luckily the aforementioned voucher websites have deals on restaurants as well. But for those who are really focusing on budget travel in New Zealand, there is no way to get around self catering. The cheapest grocery store is definitely Pac n Sav, while the most expensive are the 4 squares found in small towns. However, the cheapest way to stock up on fruit and veg is to visit the farmers market held weekly in the bigger towns and cities.
Many travellers will find it necessary to have a working cell phone with them during their travels. Not only is this indispensable if you are couchsurfing, but it is also pretty darn helpful for most other things. If you have an unlocked phone, then you can just pop in a New Zealand sim card straight away. In New Zealand, there are three major sim providers, and the cheapest by far is 2 degrees. 2 degrees also sell cheap and basic phones, just in case yours from home is not unlocked.
It is always the little things – the things we never consider – that add up and take a considerable bite out of the travel budget. This is especially true in New Zealand. Things like toiletries, books, and electronics are significantly more expensive here. My best advice for avoiding these additional expenses is stock up on those things you really can’t live without while you are home. But if that is not possible, and you must buy some more clothes/shoes/toiletries while in New Zealand – then make sure you do it at the Warehouse. The Warehouse is like New Zealand’s version of Walmart – low quality for low prices. But then again, if you are trying to budget travel in New Zealand, then low price is all that matters.
Do you have more tips for budget travel in New Zealand? Let me know in the comments!
We have been financially compensated for some of the links in this post. However all companies mentioned are used and recommended by us, and all opinions are obviously our own.